Monday, 12 November 2012

IMPACT AND ROLE OF SUPERMARKETS AS OUTLETS FRESH FARM PRODUCE AND PROCUREMENT

In summary

Supermarkets are becoming popular outlets of fresh fruits and vegetables because of their quality and safety measures and growing middle class that are ready to spend more.

A farmer who is targeting to sell his produce in a supermarket must understand its’ procurement procedures.

Huge chain supermarkets have contracted companies or have specialist procurement departments that source the produce on their behalf and are less likely to buy direct from farmers.

A farmer intending to sell to the big chains supermarkets may have challenges in assuring them consistency and quality.

Smaller supermarkets require small volumes of produce have less restrictions to direct purchase from farmers.

Procurement of fresh fruits and vegetables depends on size of supermarket, volume of demand, and its organizational structure.

Small supermarkets purchase their requirement from farmers (both contract and non contract or wholesale or retail markets.

OUTLETS OF FRESH FRUITS AND VEGETABLES

Fruits and vegetables are consumed in Kenya when fresh; processing is restricted to the extraction of fresh juice and the drying of fruits and vegetables.

This means that a small fraction of the total production of fresh fruits and vegetables in the country is sold to processing industries.

A huge fraction is sold in traditional outlets i.e. Kiosks and open air markets which account for 80% of sales.

Some of the fresh produce is sold in supermarkets like Uchumi, Nakumatt, Tuskeys, Naivas, Kamindi, Cleanshelf, among others.

Open air markets/wet wholesale and retail markets provide competition to supermarkets as a substantial consumer base patronizes them for their convenient price and variety available.

Open air markets/wet wholesale and retail markets offer competitive prices, but are characterized by lower quality products and unhygienic conditions.

They thrive by serving the poor in the urban areas who visit them for their competitive prices and variety of produce available.

Changing quality and safety requirement of customers has made some of the big chain supermarket to shift to more specialization suppliers for their procurement needs and this has implications that will directly or indirectly affect final points at the farm level.

The highest consumption of processed fresh fruits and vegetables is in urban areas where incomes are higher and presence of tourists gives a drive for consumption.

Wakulima market is the main wholesale market in Nairobi serving retail markets in Nairobi like Kawangware, Gikomba, Toi, Kangemi, City Park and Korogocho.

HOW SUPERMARKETS SOURCE FOR FRESH FRUITS AND VEGETABLES

1. THROUGH IMPORTATION

The financial muscle of supermarkets enables them to import produce from South Africa and other east African countries when some fruits and vegetables are off season in Kenya.

Though some produce is imported from Uganda and Tanzania by traders in open air markets during off seasons, it does not take long before the off season sets in them.

That so as, Tanzania and Uganda lie in close proximity with Kenya; the equator passes though Uganda and Tanzania is a few degrees away from it.

Supermarkets have an edge in the business of importation as they can access distant markets and have highly trained procurement departments.

2. PROCUREMENT FROM LOCAL MARKET

Small and independent supermarkets account for 25% of the supermarket share of fresh fruits and vegetables buy from brokers who get their goods from open or wet markets or directly from rural farms.

Large supermarkets prefer suppliers who guarantee quality, traceability, a steady supply of expected volume all year and consistent delivery times.

The aforesaid needs have made Fresh And Juici ltd wholly owned by Nakumatt to supply all its branches.

Nakumatt has a centralized procurement system for its Nairobi network with one supplier for horticultural produce who sources the produce from large to medium farms near Nairobi, 10% from small holder farmers.

Uchumi has a centralized purchasing for its branches in Nairobi. After purchasing, the vegetables are distributed to the branches within Nairobi. For some of its stores, especially those in small towns they purchase directly from farmers and traders.

There are 4 large institutional suppliers and 10 small ones who have emerged due to more stringent demand on quality by supermarkets. They include Mugoya grocers, Zucchini vegetables shop and Fresh and Juici

IMPACT OF SUPERMARKETS IN FRESH PRODUCE SUPPLY CHAIN

A large percentage of the households in the Nairobi and other towns purchase fruits and vegetables from retail markets like kiosks and kibandas around their homes.

This is soon changing as more and more people are buying fresh fruits and vegetables from supermarkets.

This is so as supermarkets are quality conscious, have a variety of fruits and vegetables throughout the year and the growing middle class in the country prefers to shop in them rather can visit grimy and overcrowded markets.

Supermarkets have started laying stringent safety and quality standards for foodstuff with some of the produce being labeled with producer identification for purposes of traceability.

Supermarkets as outlets of produce are likely to causing fundamental structural changes in the produce supply chains as they taking away market share from kiosks, open air markets and kibandas.

Though Wholesale and open markets still remains the most important outlet for fruits and vegetables in Kenya, the supermarkets are becoming vicious competitors.

Supermarkets emphasize on quality, variety and reliability, traceability and consistent supply of produce.

These conditions can’t be met when purchases are made at Wholesale and open markets.

There is real fear that direct supplies from small holder farmers may dwindle due to these stringent demands and also spatial scattered nature of these producers that raise transactions costs especially transport and time.

Friday, 9 November 2012

HOW TO EVALUATE FARM PROFITABILITY

 A farmer invests time, money and labor in his farm with the aim of making profit and personal satisfaction.

His assumption is, if the weather is conducive and pests don’t destroy his crops or diseases kill his animals he will recover his input and make profit.

He has a basket of options to choose from— crops or animals that he will plant or keep so as to minimize his risk and maximize his profit.

He must undertake a detailed examination of the profitability of individual enterprises and of the farm system as a whole in the evaluation process.

‘There are no quick fixes available to improved farm profitability every item must be carefully considered if it’s worth keeping’

This process of evaluation involves the under mentioned process

1. BENCHMARKING

It is not easy to assess the efficiency and profitability of an enterprise without comparing it to available standards.

Since extension services unavailable in Kenya, the only starting point for comparison of is the best practice norms or benchmarks.

As you compare your farms enterprises with those from other farms you will know whether you are utilizing the full potential of your farm or not.

For example, if you own dairy cattle, you may compare their productivity those from a research center.

2. OPPORTUNITY COST OR PRODUCTION COST?

The prices of farm produce are unpredictable resulting to uncertainty about the correct price to use for most produce.

During accounting, items are valued at production cost. A milk producer will therefore record the price of fuel, fertilizer and seed as being a maize production cost in his accounting system.

If he wants to determine the profitability of his dairy enterprise he will use the price he can get for the maize less marketing cost.

In other words, the maize enterprise sells maize to the dairy enterprise at market related price.

This principle widely used where related companies sell services to each other at market related values.

3. LOOKING AT THE BOTTOM LINE

A good financial record keeping system is a pre-requisite for profitability.

A profitable farm system should be evaluated by looking at the bottom line or net disposable income which is the amount of money a farmer can put in his pocket.

To increase the net disposable income, first step is to increase the gross margin, that achieved by looking at all the enterprises to save on variable expenses.

Variable expenses are those that vary with the quantity produced such as seed and fertilizer, however, reducing them normally results in lower production and earnings.

Secondly, a farmer should increase his technical efficiency. His decisions will be important in the efficient and correct use of variable inputs to result in the maximum gross margin.

Finally, prices vary between suppliers so, efficient purchasing management is necessary.

4. LOWERING OVERHEAD COSTS

Re-evaluate all overhead costs and get new quotations for services.

Labor should therefore be managed efficiently as possible. It is possible to save by negotiating interest rates with credit suppliers.

Careful management of creditor accounts can also save interest and ensure you use the full interest free period provided by suppliers.

The purchase of capital equipment should be limit to what you can afford.

5. NONFARM INCOME AND TAXES

Nonfarm income plays an important role in balancing the books. During good years, invest money off the farm and build a sizable investment portfolio that will provide necessary income especially during bad farming.

Always keep household expenses under control. Improved fiscal performance is the result of detailed analysis of farm business both on the level of a single enterprise and the farms overall performance.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

FARMING GREEN MAIZE IN KITALE: IS IT A CREDIBLE INVESTMENT?

maize plantation There are many investment opportunities in the agricultural industry; among them is green maize farming.

This type of farming is different, as the farmer sells the maize while it is at the mature green stage.

Green maize is popular in Kenya; it’s cooked with beans to produce a popular meal known as githeri or it’s eaten roasted.

It has been estimated that an acre of maize costs a farmer 20,000-20,000 to produce. Once the maize is at the mature green stage, brokers/middlemen buy the crop at a cost 35,000-40,000 shillings per acre.

This means that a farmer will make a profit of 15,000-20,000 per acre. The broker takes care of all costs of harvesting, packing and transporting the maize.

When the maize is left to dry so that it is sold for flour production, one acre can produce 20 to 30 ninety kilogram bags.

A bag of dry maize is priced at 2,500-2,800 shillings. This means that a farmer is likely to earn between 50,000 to 84,000 shillings.

He will however incur the costs of harvesting, shelling, drying the maize, storage and treating the maize to guard against weevils.

All the aforementioned costs will eat into his profit and it is likely that the profit he will make will be lower than if he sold his maize at the green stage.

Dilemma facing potential investors

Growing green maize in Kitale seems like a worthy investment as the environment favors maize production, the soils are fertile, and the price of green maize is high at 3000 shillings for a 115-kilogram bag.

Unfortunately, most investors are greenhorns; they are not aware of the complexities in farming, land tenure and marketing green maize.

Here is what you require as an investor:

1. Land to hire or lease if you don’t own any

2. Tilling the Land, first harrow, and second harrow

3. Hire a planting machine

4. Weeding by laborers or control weeds through herbicides.

5. Spraying by tractor for pests and diseases

6. Harvesting by hand or machine

7. Transporting the maize from the farm to the market

8. Have a storage facility

A table showing the cost of some farm operations in Kitale

Activity

Cost in shillings per acre

1.

Hiring land

3,000

2.

Plowing

4,000

3.

1st Harrowing

3,500

4.

2nd Harrowing

3,500

5.

Hybrid seeds

1,500

6.

Weeding by tractor spraying (this is what you will pay the owner of the tractor)

1,000(does not include the cost of herbicides and water)

7.

Spraying pests and disease using a tractor

1,000(does not include the cost of pesticide/fungicide and water)

8.

Harvesting by hand

2,500

9.

Transporting produce to the market

(This cost varies from farmer to farmer depending on his target market)

10

Total cost of input per acre

25,000 (approximate cost)

ACREAGE REQUIRED TO BREAK-EVEN

The ideal acreage if you intend to go commercial is 30 plus acres. To break even, you must have a minimum of 20 acres.

Commercial maize farming gets juicier as the cost of inputs comes down considerably with increased acreage.

If you are planting 100 acres and over, the best option is to buy a second hand tractor valued at 800,000-1,000,000 shillings.

To illustrate this point, the inputs required for one acre is estimated at 15,000 shillings thus 100 acres will cost 1.5 million shillings.

40% this costs of goes to the owner of the tractor; if you own the tractor, your costs will be reduced by a huge margin.

Furthermore, you will earn more when the tractor works for other small-scale farmers.

WHAT TO CONSIDER WHEN LEASING LAND

Lease the land for a reasonable period for example 3-4 years. This will allow you to recoup your investments when the crop fails or the weather is not acting as expected.

You need to lease land in a secure area without many environmental challenges and communication that may pose high management and labor costs.

Avoid leasing land near wildlife sanctuaries, game parks and transit corridors as most of your production will be lost to them.

Securing one parcel of land that is over 30 acres is difficult and you are prone to fraudsters.

You need to conduct due diligence to and it’s important that you consult a lawyer to advice you on the terms of the lease.

SUPERVISION OF FARM OPERATIONS

You need to employ a trustworthy person to supervise the farm operations if you are operating from far.

The employee should be one who understands when and how to plough, harrow, and conduct any other essential operations, without these, you are liable to huge losses.

STRATEGIES OF REDUCING LOSS

A farmer engaging in this type of farming can get losses in the following manner;

When the maize of the entire farm matures at the same time, say 100 acres- this will lead to surplus production. This affects supply and demand leading to low prices being offered for the produce.

This can be solved by planting different portions of the farm with early maturing, middle maturing and late maturing varieties.

Another reason that may lead to losses is when the crop in a single field does not have uniform growth or maturity. The solution for this is to buy certified seed from a credible dealer.

HAND HELD MOTORIZED TRACTORS:THEIR POPULARITY, PERFORMANCE AND COST

Walking tractor/hand held motorized plow Hand held motorized tractors have been touted as a solution for plowing small farms in Africa.

The low cost of these machines seems attractive to small scale farmers.

This is good news, as farmers in Africa and other developing nations have been using hoes or ox-driven plows for centuries.

The purpose of this article is to discuss the perceptions on the performance, practicability and cost of this machine.

RATIONALE FOR USING VARIOUS MACHINES TO PLOW

When farmer tills his land using a hoe, the maximum area he can plow in a day is an eighth of an acre when he is working alone and the soils are friable.

Where the soils are hard and clayey in nature, the area that a single farmer can plow using a hoe is less than an eighth an acre.

On the other hand, when an ox-driven plow is used, he can plow at-least half an acre per day, similarly when a tractor used, more than 6 acres can be plowed depending on the power of the tractor.

In an effort to address some of the challenges facing small farmers, engineers developed small hand held tractors commonly known as walking tractors.

This innovation has elicited great interest in the farming community and traders who want to promote their use as the equipment seem affordable, practicable, reliable and cost effective.

RESERVATIONS OF FARMERS INTERESTED IN HAND HELD TRACTORS

Farmers are interested in the experiences of those who are currently using the machines so that they can make an informed choice.

These experiences are on; the cost, performance, lifespan, maintenance cost, consumption of fuel per acre, and on the availability of spare parts of walking tractors.

However this information is not available as very few farmers are using the machine and they rarely share their experiences.

POPULARITY OF HAND HELD MOTORIZED TRACTORS

These machines are popular in countries like India, China, Korea and Turkey where they are used in plowing paddy fields.

Information does not exist indicating the first country to use this type of tractor, but their use is widespread in China, South Korea and Turkey.

However this technology is new to Africa, few farmers own them and have reported mixed experiences as they use them.

THE COST OF WALKING TRACTORS

There are a number of shops at river-road Street and industrial area in Nairobi that sell these machines. The prices range from 180,000-200,000 shillings.

The reason for the variance is the origin of the engine, its horsepower and the profit margin a particular vendor is targeting.

The models available in Kenya are imported from china and India with very few coming from turkey there are some that are assembled locally by Jomo Kenyatta University of agriculture and technology.

THE PERFORMANCE OF WALKING TRACTORS

No studies have been conducted in Kenya on the performance of various models under different soil conditions.

The available information is from the personal experiences of people who are using or have used such tractors.

It is therefore difficult to draw credible conclusions on the performance of the machines. For instance, it has been claimed that, it’s possible to plow 2 acres in a day using these tractors.

My personal experience is contrary to this claim, doing even ¼ of an acre is difficult and unhealthy.

Most of the models turned either left or right using levers during plowing. Turning the tractor either left or right is an energy sucking job that makings it impossible for one, two or three person to plow 2 acres in a day!

Secondly, the design of the tractor is such exhaust pipe of the engine is at top of the tractor. This means that if there some wind dangerous diesel fumes will be blown to your face which may cause health problems with extended use of the machine.

“I worked with a 35 HP walking tractor, handling the tractor was so difficult, the vibrations from the engine were powerful, I could feel the vibrations all the way to my spine” “I had to stop using for the sake of my health,” quips Eliud, a farmer in Busia County!

Thursday, 13 September 2012

HOW TO STORE POTATO TUBERS

Potatoes in a Sufuria Farmers experience challenges when storing their potatoes after harvests because of their perishable nature.

Secondly,they are sensitive to sunlight; they turn green when exposed to it, thus become unsuitable for planting or consumption.

The exposure leads to the production of toxins known as solanin.

For the farmer to avoid loses when the potatoes turn green, or when they rot,  he should take extra care.

A step by step process of avoiding such losses has been discussed here.

Every potato farmer has two storage objectives.

  1. To store part of his harvest as seed for the next season.
  2. To store the excess harvest for the market prices to improve.

Procedure of preparing potato seed for storage

The objective of seed storage is to have optimum development of sprouts prior to planting. This can only be achieved by the appropriate pre and post harvest treatment of the seed.

The first step harden potatoes, This is achieved by cutting off the stems at the base two weeks before harvest. This treatment reduces the loss moisture  from the potatoes after harvest.

After harvest sort out potatoes immediately; only egg sized potatoes are suitable for seed.

All bruised potatoes should be removed; they are easily affected by disease, rotting agents, tuber weevils and may infect the rest if stored together.

Potatoes meant for seed shouldn’t be washed as the water may be contaminated by bacteria or fungi.

After the aforesaid is done, put the potatoes in sisal bags and place them on  raised platforms or on a dry floor inside a rat proofed store.

Avoid synthetic bags to store potatoes; Sisal bags are better as they allow  circulation of air. Alternatively, store them in net bags that allow sunlight and ventilation.

Do not store potatoes in direct sunlight, they turn green and cannot be used as seed or even for consumption.

The store should face an East-West direction to reduce the amount of light getting into the stores.

If an ordinary store is used, the seed potatoes should be covered with grass to help them sprout and reduce the amount of light getting to potatoes.

Good seed potatoes should be well sprouted; they should have a uniform sprout in all eyes. Potato sprouts should be at least 2 cm in length before transplanting.

STORING POTATOES MEANT FOR CONSUMPTION/ware potatoes

Potatoes meant for consumption are also known as

After tubers are dug out, they should be well dried [a process known as curing] while ensuring they aren’t exposed to the sun, rain or wind.

When two weeks are over, they’ll have thickened skins and any nicks will have healed.

Whether the potatoes are placed in bins, bags or boxes the main consideration is air circulation.

For this reason a slated box is the best. The atmosphere should have a high  relative humidity the preferably 90%, temperatures should be between 15-20 degrees to allow slow respiration of the tubers.

Exposing tubers to light hastens sprouting and produces a green color or sunburn hence potatoes should be covered or shaded from light.

As the storage season advances, potatoes should be examined from time to time, if sprouting is observed, remove the sprout and reject the damaged and diseased tubers.

USING SAWDUST DURING STORAGE OF POTATOES

Potatoes are sorted for storage by removing those that are bruised, those with tuber moth holes and rotting ones.

Farmers then spread a thick layer of sawdust across the clean floor on the store.

They then spread the potatoes on the sawdust to cover the potatoes. This method is able to extend shelf life for up to 5 months without any sign of damage.

Using this method may benefit farmers to store their surplus potatoes until the market prices are favorable.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

BANANA: POPULARITY, PRODUCTION, HARVESTING RIPENING, USES, AND PROCESSING IN KENYA.

How many times have you chosen to buy a banana during lunch hours that costs between 5 to 10 shillings instead of buying fries?

You are not alone-workers in most cities and towns in Kenya buy bananas at lunchtime to save on cost of buying fast foods or to avoid fast food for health reasons.

Fully mature banana ready for harvest

This peculiar habit of Kenyans has propelled banana to be the most popular fruit in the country and opened avenues for farmers to profit big.

A research conducted in 2008 indicated that 60 percent of stalls in fresh market centers, villages and towns selling fresh produce stock bananas.

We can conclude that farmers who venture into banana farming are likely to earn more compared to other fruit farming since banana production is year round.

KENYA’S PRODUCTIVITY OF BANANAS

It is estimated that the country produces over 1 million tones of the crop valued at 7 billion shillings.

Unfortunately, over 40% of production the countries production is lost due to poor harvesting and handling techniques, inadequate market banana market and due to fungal diseases like panama and pests like banana weevil.

These diseases and pests make the harvested crop to be of poor quality thus diminishing the returns to farmers.

Because of the aforesaid reasons, we country is losing its local market to imports from Uganda, a country that produces 10 million tones valued at 1.7 billion dollars of fruit making it the second largest producer of bananas in the world after India.

The average yield per hectare of banana in Kenya has been established to be 15 tones.

AREAS IN KENYA WHERE BANANAS ARE GROWN

The Abagusii community found in Kisii County are famed producers of the crop. It’s often joked that they can eat ugali with [a meal made from maize flour] ripe bananas instead of vegetables.

Bananas are also produced in Meru, Kiambu, Kirinyaga, and Maragua, Mbooni under irrigation.

The average weight of one bunch of bananas is 15-20 kg which fetches 200-300 shillings at the farm gate.

TYPE BANANAS PREFERRED BY CUSTOMERS

There are many banana varieties, that can classified in two distinct groups according to the way they are consumed: those suitable for cooking and those suitable for ripening.

Ripened bananas are more popular of the two; a fact attributed to the hectic Kenyan life, their affordability and the fact that a ripe banana is ready to eat.

Customers look for uniformly ripened bananas that are yellow in color and do not have black patches caused by rough handling during harvesting.

In most fast food outlets the cost of one plate of chips is between 60 to 200 shillings on the other hand, a single banana will cost between 5 to 10 shillings and 3 of them are sufficient to cool hunger pangs.

Ripened bananas are preferred because they give the body immediate energy supply because they have sufficient amounts of sugar and glucose.

 

OTHER USES OF BANANA PLANT

Besides yielding of banana fruit, pseudo stems of the banana plant are used in the production of fiber and as a reliable source of forage feed for many livestock farmers.

Banana beer is brewed in Rwanda is called Rugwanda it is served warm and tastes as if it’s sprinkled with charcoal. Guys there actually have it for lunch.

 

PESTS AFFECTING BANANA PLANT

Nematodes are the most damaging pest causing over 70% loss of the crop. Control is by nematicides e.g. carbofuran but it is becoming infective at the recommended lethal doses.

Treating the soil with farmyard manure, poultry manure and extracts from tagetes minuta have the same capabilities of controlling nematodes like carbofuran. They are thus preferred since Nematicides damage the environment

 

WHERE TO FIND SUITABLE DISEASE FREE SUCKERS

Tissue culture banana seedlings are available at Jomo Kenyatta University of agriculture and technology in Juja and at the National Horticulture Research Centre, Thika or the nearest Kari research centre.

 WHY GROWING BANANAS IN A GREENHOUSE IS NOT PRACTICAL

The cost of constructing One hectare of greenhouse is estimated to be $100,000-$200,000 meaning only high value crops are suitable for greenhouse production.

When we consider the production and value of one hectare of bananas; one hectare yields 14-20 tones of bananas valued at $ 3,220 to $ 4600 after waiting for 2-3 years!

Secondly the surface area occupied by one stool of banana plant that consists of the mother [the crop bearing bunch] the daughter and the child is about 4M2.

This limits the number of plants that can be grown bin the greenhouse thus lowers the number of bunches that can be harvested.

This is disadvantageous for those who sell to the market in form of bunches.

Finally a banana plant can grow to a height of 8 meters. This means if several of them are grown in a greenhouse they can outgrow the greenhouse and probably destroy it.

 

RIPENING BANANAS

There are three ways to do so

1. Natural ripening

Unripe, green, fully mature bananas are placed together with avocadoes or ripening passion fruit in an air tight paper bag.

During ripening there is the production and accumulation of ethylene gas that hastens ripening.

2. Ethylene generators

Artificial ethylene generators produce ethylene that induces the ripening of bananas for industrial scale bananas.

Disadvantage of artificially ripened bananas is they lack the characteristic flavor and aroma of naturally ripened fruit.

3. Dipping bananas in water containing carbide

It has been said that when bananas are dipped in water containing carbide their ripening is enhanced.

However it said that industrial grade carbide may contain traces of arsenic and phosphorus hence the use of calcium carbide in most countries is illegal.

BANANA PROCESSING COMPANIES IN KENYA

Stawi foods and Fruits Company enters into contracts with organized farmer groups where they buy bananas from them. They process them into banana flour and package them ready for the market.

Processed banana is packaged as Stawi Natural Banana Flour and is commonly used to make baby food pasta, food fortification and pizza base.

Banana plant can yield up to 14 tones per hectare.

NUTRITIONAL BENEFITS OF BANANAS

They contain potassium, an electrolyte that helps to maintain the body’s fluid balance, keep muscles from cramping and prevent high blood pressure.

One banana is enough to replace what is lost during one or two hours of hard exercise.

One banana contains approximately 9 grams of fiber which is a third of our daily requirement.

DEVELOPMENT OF THE INFLORESCENCE INTO A BANABanana inflorescenceNA BUNCH

A banana plant takes one to two years to attain maturity.

The maturity stage is characterized by the production of an inflorescence that later develops into a banana bunch containing several fingers that grow into bananas.

The size of the inflorescence determines the final size of a banana bunch and bananas.

For banana plants to produce bigger inflorescences the soil should be supplied with sufficient manure, be well draining and

The plant should be should be free of pests like banana weevil, thrips and diseases.

For instance the above plant will produce a small banana bunch and small bananas when fully mature because the inflorescence is small that is 40 cm long.

For the plant to develop a big bunch the inflorescence should be about 60-70 cm long. Once the inflorescence is produced, bananas will be formed in 3 to 5 months.

 

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

PRUNING AND CANOPY MANAGEMENT OF AVOCADO TREES

Pruning of fruit trees is one of the most undervalued farm operations among small scale African farmers.

This operation is very important as it makes a difference in the value of the fruits produced by the farmer hence more income.

It has been established that well maintained and pruned trees produce fruits with higher amounts of avocado oil; trees are less susceptible to diseases and produce healthy fruits.

When fruit trees are not pruned, they grow very tall thus ruling out spraying pesticides and fungicides on them using cheap and simple equipment for example knapsack sprayers.

During pruning, good tree architecture is created that enhances a good spray distribution and penetration; the tree height is maintained at a maximum of 5.5 meters.

PURPOSE OF PRUNING

1. To get better light penetration into the tree

When a large percentage of the trees foliage is exposed to sunlight, the leaves will be more efficient in production of food for the development of fruits.

If branches are crowded together, the prevalence of diseases such as anthracnose increases because of high humidity.

High humidity around the flowers provides good conditions for fungal spores to penetrate developing fruits, thus pruning serves to reduce the number of branches and leaves.

2. Control size and vigor

Avocado trees become tall if structural pruning is not carried out.

Varieties such as fuerte can reach a height of 10 meters which makes harvesting hard and hazardous.

3. Maintain yield and quality

The market prefers larger fruits but when a tree bears a very high number of developing fruits they tend to be smaller.

Some of the developing fruits should be removed (thinning out) this practice will tend to produce heavier avocadoes.

4. Bring neglected trees back into condition

Pruning stimulates the growth of new shoots and branches thus old trees are rejuvenated.

TYPES OF PRUNING

1. Training provides the basic framework of the tree as it grows from a seedling to a mature tree.

2. Renewal pruning is carried out when the tree is fruiting. Its purpose is to remove weak or dead material and control or encourage vigor.

If the tree is growing too tall, the strong vertical growth is cut or headed back.

3. Thinning out discourages biennial bearing which is a tendency for some trees to produce bumper harvests one year and poor ones the next.

WHEN TO PRUNE AN AVOCADO TREE

1. During transplanting the first pruning takes place at this stage. Any broken or very long roots are trimmed so that they can fit into the planting hole.

2. At the close of harvest and before flowering For mature plants, pruning is typically carried out at this stage. Excess branches are removed to open up the tree to air and light.

For grafted plants, suckers are sometimes produced and must be removed. Suckers are those shoots that emerge from the rootstalk that have the potential to grow into new plants.

When suckers are left to grow, they will compete with the tree for nutrients and eventually reduce the yields of the main tree.

3. During fruiting this is done when the tree has produced very many fruits. Some fruits are removed so as to encourage the remaining fruits to grow bigger.

This process of removing some fruits is known as thinning out; a process that discourages biennial bearing.

A guide is correct tree height is to prune so that canopy height becomes 70% of row width with a triangular shape for best light interception.

Precautions during pruning

Any damaged or broken growth must be removed using a setaceous, a sharp panga or pruning saw.

Sterilization of the pruning tool prevents the spread of internally trans-located diseases from tree to tree.

It means dipping tools in a disinfectant of 20% household bleach solution between trees to prevent any sap–borne diseases such as viral infections or fungal problems like phytopthora being spread from an infected plant to healthy ones.

Viral diseases dictate which tools need to be sterilized because they are easily transferred into the vascular system of uninfected plants.